Personalized Learning is Student-Directed Learning

Personalized Learning is Student-Directed Learning - TLG-IMG-06142018This article in EdWeek highlights an idea I love – WIN sessions in Henry County, Georgia. WIN, or What I Need, periods provide students choice about, flexibility in, and ownership of their learning. This strategy sets students up to be activated as learners and develop a growth mindset. In developing student agency, we are building skills that empower students, like critical thinking, problem solving, self-awareness, and metacognition, all of which serve to give students voice in their learning.

In WIN, students get to decide which content area they will focus on during the WIN period, which occurs weekly. For this to happen, it means that several pieces need to be in place in the classrooms as part of the culture of learning:

  • Formative assessment strategies are used to elicit evidence of learning to provide students with data.
  • Students use their personal data to make decisions about what they know and don’t know.
  • Students set personal learning goals, self-assess, and monitor their progress.
  • Students have differentiated and engaging assignments to choose from to help them learn what they need and want to know.
  • Teachers have choice and flexibility to try new strategies to support students.

Establishing and developing a culture of learning in the classroom is the key to supporting students in directing their learning. Some important components include mindset, engagement, and structures. Of course, each of these components contains multiple elements:

  • Tweet: Personalized learning is student-directed learning - #edchat #teachers - via @kdyer13 Mindset: fixed mindset, growth mindset, academic mindset, and personal autonomy
  • Engagement: metacognition, collaboration, choice, and challenge
  • Structures: processes, strategies, and tools

Let’s look at metacognition for a moment, particularly as it relates to the idea of personalized learning. If we consider some basic metacognitive strategies: the ability to predict outcomes, self-talk to explain concepts and ideas in order to improve understanding, identify areas of challenge, activate background knowledge, and plan ahead – all of these are skills that can be taught. If we add them to the critical thinking and problem-solving skills mentioned earlier, we have a skill set that allows students to identify what they know and don’t know, what strategies are working or not working, what they need to learn, and then create a plan to bridge any gaps. How much more personalized or student-directed could learning be?

Time and management frequently come up at this point in the conversation. What good things are you willing to give up so that you can do great things for your learners? How might you structure time and the physical environment differently to support more personalized learning? If student-directed learning is happening in your classroom or school, please share ideas about what you’ve done to make things work. If it’s not happening, what would you need to do to make this a reality for your students? Tell me about it on Twitter @kdyer13.


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